Pay-to-play is still an unnecessary evil for Harford County students [Editorial]

We applaud not only the spirit of giving, but also the effort to inspire others to follow their lead.

One Havre de Grace business recently took a stand against what has become an annual Harford County Board of Education budget maneuver.

That business – Harford Property Services – pledged to cover the cost of the pay-to-play fee assessed against Havre de Grace High School students for their participation in theater productions at their school.

The school board, as part of its budget balancing process, added those who participate in school theater programs to the list of students required to pay a fee to participate in extracurricular activities.

When it first passed a couple of years ago, the school system required high school student athletes to pay $50 for each sport they played. This spring, the school board doubled that cost to $100 per sport per season and added students who participate in theater to those assessed the pay-to-play fee.

Parents were not happy when the fee started. They were not happy when the fee was doubled. And they were not happy when students participating in theater were added to those required to pay the fee.

Enter Harford Property Services, which announced it was paying the fee for every Havre de Grace High School student who participates in a theater production. The business also encouraged others in and around Harford County to pay the fees for students in other schools.

We applaud not only the spirit of giving, but also the effort to inspire others to follow their lead.

With that said, this whole pay-to-play fee is nothing more than a tempest in a teapot, that phrase defined by Merriam-Webster's Dictionary as "a great commotion over an insignificant matter."

In that regard, pay-to-play has worked beautifully for school leaders, who levied the fee that generates literally nothing in comparison to the school system's annual $436.8 million operating budget.

The $100 fee is expected to generate about $50,000 from an estimated 500 students participating in theater productions.

Pay-to-play has not only awakened parents to the plight of the school system's budget problems, but also made it personal in every household who has athletes playing high school sports or others participating in some extracurricular school activities.

It remains, however, a wholly unnecessary fee, as we've said before, that does little to repair the school system's self-inflicted budget problems.

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